Revolutions

RevolutionThe British governments of two hundred years ago were not exclusively concerned with foreign wars.
Although
they had been leaders of the allies against France for nearly twenty years and had also been fighting for ‘Empire’ in North America and on the Indian Sub-continent these foreign wars were only periodically the main focus of government.
It was not because of the French Revolutionary Wars that Prime Minister Spencer Perceval was assassinated in the lobby of the House of Commons in May 1812. The Revolution that was causing the establishment most fear was the Industrial Revolution.
When Perceval was assassinated it was feared, not unrealistically, that his death marked the beginning of the British Revolution .It was feared that the frequent and dangerous uprisings in the newly industrialising and politically unrepresented cities of the north would become better coordinated and that the Luddite campaigns of murder and destruction would overcome law and order.
Bonapartists in the drawing rooms of fashionable London were funding agitators to make rioters, rebels and revolutionaries out of those who only sought to protect their livelihoods. Those who wished only to protect their families’ incomes were infiltrated by those who looked to overthrow the Mad King, the profligate Prince Regent and the rest of the German Royal Family.
Matters would only get worse when tens of thousands of soldiers, able bodied and horribly wounded, were released from their regiments after the victory at Waterloo.

The only person who could rein in the very real threat of revolution was Napoleon Bonaparte. And he was on his way to St Helena. Wasn’t he?
Bernard Lacey in A Set of Lies had had confidence in the military overthrow of Napoleon and saw insurgency as a far greater danger to British security. It was his task to persuade the man, who from August 1815 was known as ‘Claude Olivierre’, to use his influence to prevent a British Revolution.

 

The last days of Power and Freedom

LignyNapoleon, having escaped Elba, re-established himself as Emperor and raised a vast (if largely untried) army, was facing the combined forces of Austria, Prussia, Russia and the United Kingdom who threatened to invade France. On the basis that attack is the best form of defence Napoleon sought to defeat the Prussians and the British before the armies could link up and on 15th June 1815, by clever use of misinformation, established his position between those two armies in what is now southern Belgium.

On Friday 16th June 1815 two of the main protagonists of the more famous battle which was to follow two days later faced each other in the Battle of Ligny.

Field Marshal Blücher, commanding the Prussian army (84,000 strong), was facing up to the Armée du Nord (68,000 men) under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte. 24,000 men were killed or wounded.

The Duke of Wellington had been caught unprepared as he was, famously, attending the Duchess of Richmond’s ball in Brussels when he was told of the proximity of the French. He engaged a smaller French army at Quatre Bras. 9,000 men were killed or wounded.

Two days later, Sunday 18th June, the French fought the British under Wellington and, against all odds, Blücher’s battered Prussian army arrived on the field of Waterloo just in time to turn the tide of battle against Napoleon. 65,000 men were killed or wounded.

History records that these mid-June days two hundred years ago were the last days of Napoleon’s power and freedom.

But perhaps what history records of the events after June 18, 1815 is all A Set of Lies.